Many of us have seen photos of great writer’s desks, usually tastefully decorated with a pipe or cup of tea. But, if you’re like me, your study space has never been anything more than a desk (probably from Ikea) shoved in a small bedroom, surrounded by stained cups and clothes.
Here is what I’ve learned about making a study space among wonky tables and high-decibel housemates.
“Remember what peace there may be in silence”
Max Ehrmann, writer of the infamous Desiderata poem and all-round chilled-out guy, reminds us to seek peace and quiet. This is also often recommended for a good study space – silence allows you to concentrate on whatever’s in front of you.
But that’s not all. It turns out having the radio or TV on in the background might be good for you. With low-level noise going on, you are likely to be far more creative because the ‘top layer’ of your consciousness is busy processing the noise, even if you’re not really paying attention. This means that for things like creative writing, you’re accessing a slightly deeper level of consciousness and might find it easier to be inventive. Who knows? But it does explain why some people like noise while they work.
Basically, don’t feel pressured into sound-proofing yourself if you don’t actually think it works.
“Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit”
Max again. This time he’s totally right. While background noise might be okay, people standing outside your door chattering will not do you any favours, because it’s almost impossible to tune it out. If you live in a shared house, chances are there will be stuff going on all the time.
If your housemates are particularly understanding, try and instigate a timetable by which everyone is quiet during the day and can let rip by night. If they’re not, get yourself some headphones, shut the door, and plough on. I know many a person who swears by noise-cancelling ear protectors or the terrifying silent section of the library. In any case, don’t try to sit through the chatter. You’ll end up wanting to kill someone.
Be strict with your space
Decide where you’re going to study and try not to use it for anything else. Watching TV and eating at your desk will make it harder to work because you will no longer associate it with studying. If you can get yourself to slip into work mode when you sit down, you’ll be far more productive; and even better, when you leave the desk you are officially done for the day, which means it’s time to have fun.
Make it work
Set it up so everything is there for you. Before you start, put your books, pens and paper within reach. Make sure you’re comfortable. If you like having things around you, go for it; if you’re not bothered, sweep away all those trinkets. Turn off the internet if you’re a serial procrastinator (although taking a five-minute break every 40 minutes or so is good; switching the kettle on is the perfect opportunity to do so). Set yourself up so you don’t have too many excuses to leave the desk, et voila!
What does your study space look like, and how do you get yourself to work there every day?
Photo: Nicola Sapiens De Mitri / Flickr